|Single by Harry Chapin|
|from the album Short Stories|
|Harry Chapin singles chronology|
"W·O·L·D" is a song written and performed by Harry Chapin. The song is about an aging disc jockey who travels the United States seeking happiness, which he believes he will find by following his passion for being a radio broadcaster, only to discover that his life, looks, and voice have all passed him by, as hinted in the OLD of the title.
The song is sung through the point of view of a phone call conversation from the DJ to his ex-wife, only hearing what he has to say to her. The lyrics go on to reveal that perhaps we can never change who we really are, and that what he had really wanted was the love and companionship that had eluded him in a previous failed relationship. The song is said to have helped to inspire Hugh Wilson to conceive of the premise of the TV series WKRP in Cincinnati, including the lyrics of the theme song in which a DJ seems to speak to a former lover about his travels in his occupation--now he's "living on the air in Cincinnati...got kind of tired of packing and unpacking, town to town, up and down the dial."
The hit song was inspired by radio personality Jim Connors, who is credited for having discovered Chapin and promoted his hit, "Taxi", through Boston radio station WMEX, where he was the AM drive-time host. After the debut of "Taxi", Chapin sat in on a phone conversation Connors was having with his ex-wife while in studio at WMEX. This conversation led to a deep and personal discussion during an interview both on and off the air between the men. They talked about life, the business, marriage, divorce, happiness, and all the troubles associated with being a DJ and the music business at the time.
When performing the song live, Chapin frequently replaced WOLD in the last verse with the call letters of a local station in the town where the performance was held. The live version of the song from the compilation The Gold Medal Collection has an example of this; WOLD was replaced with KHJ, a station in Los Angeles.
The song, included on the album Short Stories, peaked on the US charts at number 36 in March 1974 and at number 34 in the UK. However, when Chapin performed it on the Greatest Stories Live album, he jokingly said that the song actually charted for "15 minutes." "W·O·L·D" was most popular in the Netherlands, where it nearly topped the charts at number 4. It was also very notable in Canada, reaching number 14 and number 9. The song charted in multiple other countries in the top 20. It went on to sell over a million units.